Diabetes Jokes: A Modern [Family] Approach

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Diabetes Jokes AppWhen there’s nothing new on the news, I try to find something funny to watch on TV before my head hits the pillow. The other night, Gary and I caught a rerun of Modern Family. The episode was new to me.

It was Claire & Phil’s Anniversary. Thinking it was Phil’s favorite band, Claire arranged for Izzy, the bass player from Spandau Ballet, to come over and play a private concert. (Izzy was played by guest star Ed Norton.) Phil, who didn’t know any of the band’s songs, was not enjoying the show. Izzy tried to brighten things up by prompting Phil to kiss his wife. When Phil gave Claire a quick peck, Izzy teased, “Come on, man. She’s not your sister.” He went on to say that the joke he had just made was not funny… because his sister “lost her feet to complications from diabetes.”

I’ve written about diabetes jokes on TV before. Generally I’m not a fan. They are usually rooted in misinformation that leads to stereotyping. And they are often made flippantly, as if people with diabetes live in some distant land. As if they couldn’t possibly be watching the show… to understand the joke… to feel one way or another about it.

Nevertheless. In this particular case, while I didn’t find the joke funny in the traditional sense (diabetes – amputation – ha ha), I was amused for a different reason. I was struck by its thoughtfulness and accuracy. Izzy’s sister didn’t lose her feet to diabetes. She lost them to complications from diabetes.

I didn’t feel objectified or misrepresented, nor did I feel the need to stand up and shout that Not All People with Diabetes get Amputations! The joke already made that clear. Complications from diabetes can lead to amputation – not the diabetes itself.

The episode got me thinking about the writer who scripted the joke. Was it random? Or did he include the word ‘complications’ on purpose? Maybe he had a heightened awareness of diabetes and he knew it made more sense. A progressive diabetes joke! How appropriate coming from Modern Family. If the writer wanted to be even more precise, he could have written, “…lost her feet to complications from diabetes due to poor blood glucose management.” (But that would be asking for a lot.)

On the other hand, maybe the writer crafted the joke with the word ‘complications’ to poke fun at people like me who would have cared if the word was missing. Sneaky but clever. Still amusing. I wonder what’s next for diabetes comedy – maybe an app!

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